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How to Organise Personnel Records

By hrcap, Mar 31 2015 11:29AM

Few of us enjoy dealing with paperwork, but taking the time to properly establish and maintain your employee’s personnel records will save you time and will pay off in the long run. Properly maintaining employee records will ensure you will have all the important documents relating to each employee in one place, and easily accessible when it’s time to make decisions on promotions, lay offs, and comply with government audits. And when the situation arises where you have to terminate a problem employee, a well-organised and complete record will go a long way in providing your organisation legal protection.

Three reasons why well maintained employees files are a must:

1. Law requires employers to keep certain records regarding each individual employee.

2. Most employers at some time will need to produce documentation regarding employee performance and/or work history.

3. It simply makes good business sense to have your information accessible and organised for those times when you need it.

What belongs in a personnel file?

Any job-related materials pertaining to, but not limited to information on employment such as;

• Application

• CV

• Offer letter

• Job description • Tax forms

• Performance evaluations

• Documentation on disciplinary issues • Attendance records

• Compensation history

• Resignation letters

• Training Records

Remember that employees have a right to view their records. Indiscrete entries that do not directly relate to an employee’s job performance and qualifications, like reference to an employee’s private life or an employee’s race, sex or religion, can have negative consequences for an employer. A good rule of thumb is to not put anything in a personnel record that you would not want a jury to see.

What does not belong in a personnel file?

Anything that is not directly related to the job or employee, for example a pre-employment reference, credit reports, wage garnishments, or any medical records, medical information or health insurance applications.

Many government agencies are authorised to inspect your personnel records if they visit your work location. If you have information relevant to the government agencies in your personnel records, then the government gets to go through your personnel records, which could raise additional

questions or issues. Any reference to an employee’s date of birth should always be kept separate from the employee personnel file.

Who has a right to view personnel files?

Personnel records should be treated like any other private company records and should be kept in a secure place. You do not want just anyone rummaging through the information in a personnel record. Make employee files available only to those who have legitimate business needs for access to the files. For example, you might establish a policy that only the human resource manager, the individual employee’s manager and the employee have a right to see an employee’s file. This will ensure your employee’s privacy and limit any opportunity for inappropriate documents to find their way into the files.

Laws can give current and former employees access to their own personnel records. The details of this access vary. Typically, if your company allows employees to see their records, your organisation can insist that a supervisor be present to make sure nothing is taken, added or changed. In addition, employees who have resigned, who are on a leave of absence, or who have been terminated or laid off have the same inspection rights as current employees. Some laws can allow employees to copy specific items from their record, but not necessarily the entire record. For example, the law may limit the employee’s access to only copies of documents that he/she signed, such as a job application or Offer of Employment. If an employee is entitled to copies of the record or documents in the record, a company representative, rather than the employee, should make the copies.

In closing, the time and effort that it takes to organise and maintain employee personnel files is time well spent. Don’t delay checking your personnel records to see what shape they are in. This HR responsibility goes a long way in protecting your organisation.

Suggestions on how to tackle the review of personnel records:

• Make a checklist of documents that should be in personnel records.

• Make a checklist of documents that should not be in personnel records.

• Confirm that each employee has a personnel record. For employees who do not have a record, create one.

• Using the checklists, organise the record accordingly.

• For documents that you are unsure what to do with, don’t throw them away! Contact your HR department, or HR consultant.

• Store the personnel records in a safe place.

• Mark it on your calendar to make a review of records every twelve months.

Benefits of Using Beefficient Software to Organise your Personnel Records:

• Set Structure - Beefficient Software gives you a set structure to work from, this shows you exactly what documents should be held for personnel.

• Standard Format - Having a standard format for each personnel record means that you know exactly where to find a certain piece of employee information, taking away the need to flick through endless amounts of paper in personnel files.

• Automatic Auditing - As the personnel files are held electronically a gap analysis can be easily undertaken, quickly showing you what documents are required in order to complete your personnel records. This will greatly reduce the amount of time that you spend on internal audits.

• Automatic Alerts - Many documents within personnel files require review or expire (such as training records). Beefficient Software automatically alerts you when these reviews and expiry dates are due, taking away the need for you to log the dates in a separate calendar (this disjointed method often leads to personnel records becoming out of date). Keeping your personnel records ‘in date’ will ensure that your company remains compliant.

• Audit Ready: Because the personnel records are effectively audited every time that you log on to Beefficient Software, your company will remain audit ready. This will allow you to reduce the amount of time that you spend preparing for external audits. Also the time spent sitting through external audits will be reduced as you will be able to quickly guide the auditor to the documents that they need to see.

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